There’s a story behind every tattoo; even those questionable bicep barbed wires and the Asian symbols of unknown translation. Some stories are pretty as lame, usually involving adult beverages, a late night out with the boys/girls, and close proximity to Tito’s 24 Hour Tattoo Parlor. My dad always said nothing good ever happens after 11:00 and this may be what he was talking about. But some tales are pretty amusing and others are surprisingly deep.
First of all, know that the person with the tattoo likely won’t mind if you inquire about it. Frame it correctly and you’ll likely to hear a good story. A simple, “Hey dude (or dudette, as the case may be), cool tat. If it’s not too personal, what’s it’s story”, may be all you need to coax it into the open.
Cable TV knows this about the formerly taboo tattoo and as the arbiter of everything culturally cool in our society they don’t hesitate to open their wallets and primetime slots to otherwise fringe element body artists like Kat, Avi, and their posses in Miami and LA if they sense a burning audience curiosity, a deeper, darker reality story, or the aroma of advertisement cash. All three fit this bill.
I (and countless other Jesse James wannabes) secretly harbored a desire for my own tattoo ever since that crazy night on shore leave in Perth, Australia with my Navy buddies 30 years ago. I chickened out that night succumbing to pedestrian thoughts of being eternally marred, visions of my mother in tears and my dad shaking his head asking if this is what happens after 11:00. This experience however, left a deep emotional wound. I returned to the ship that night and laid awake in my stateroom bemoaning what could have been. Actually, that’s not really true but all good stories need to have an element of emotional sap.
Fast forward to 2007, and ‘Scripto’, the little known Greek muse of tattoo ink smiled on me once again. Obviously feeling my pain for the opportunity lost Downunder, ‘Scripto’ used my wife’s out of character behavior and a son’s experiences to deliver me from my unrequited desire. Here’s my story.
The kids had arrived for a week of summer vacation at our house on the coast of Maine and great fun was to be had by all. That was until kid #3 divulged that he had been involved in an incident requiring, in his mind, Johnnie Cochran type services. So much for happy times at Casa BasicMan with the family, bonding, memories, and all that saccharine exuded by those non-dysfunctional JCrew catalogue families from the suburbs.
My youngest son John, is me 30 years later, literally. He went through a period of his life displaying an ongoing need to learn life’s toughest lessons by swimming in life’s muck. I also was a world class muckster at his age (usually after 11P.M.). The incident in question didn’t involve any casualties, felonies, or trigger any international consequences however it was enough to send my wife into orbit. The thought of someone messing with her vision of our family vacation was too much to handle. She erupted into a staccato diatribe that left even me in awe.
At the core of the volcano was the idea that poor judgment and stupid decisions reflect on our family name and the good reputation we tried to create. Explosive as it was, I liked it. She was on a roll and I knew better than to intervene. At about the point where a snooping neighbor might have been concerned for the overall safety of the inhabitants in our house, it ended suddenly with a proclamation: “Maybe we should just tattoo our last name in big letters somewhere on your body so you’ll think twice about doing something immature and stupid (what I believe she really wanted to say was “… doing something that ruins our family vacation”). An eerie quiet settled on the room as I looked at the older kids staring in silence at their mother with mouths agape.
I saw an incredible opportunity. Borrowing the sentiment from, “a crisis should never be wasted”, I chose this as the proper time to back my wife up. “I’ll get the keys and warm up the car. Let’s get this thing done and see if we can’t salvage this vacation”. The older two kids beat me to the car. Giddy-up. I had successfully outflanked my wife.
Walking into the Acme Tattoo studio, the ink techs stared in bewilderment at the Talbot’s family that had wandered into their establishment. Having informed the owner that my wife had decreed that we all be issued personalized tattoos, I laid down the rules; everybody in the family gets one, they design their own, no bigger than quarter, and it had to center around the letter ‘R’ signifying the initial of our last name. One hour later, we were back in the SUV headed home for a family barbecue and group hugs.
Was it a life changer for our son and his penchant for dubious decisions? Who knows, but the evidence shows he’s been a model citizen ever since.
As for me, I’m thinking about a second trip to Acme. Another simple design, and you already know the story behind it.
Filed under: Culture |